Friday, January 23, 2015

A Look Around the U.S. Division

With 19 of the Winterhawks remaining 25 games against the U.S. Division, all 5 teams in the division separated by only 18 points and the change in playoff formatting this season. I figured now would be as good a time as any to look around the Division at the Hawks and their 4 rivals.
Austin Lotz

1) Everett Silvertips (46 GP , 30-12-3-1, 64 Pts)
-The Tips dropped 2 in a row at the end of 2014 and were headed on their 6 game East Division swing to start 2015, which did not look promising for them. Instead Kevin Constantine's squad has won 5 of 6 on the trip and returned to win 4 in a row against Spokane, Seattle and Prince George.
-Last season the Tips had 13 players score 19 points or more. This year they already have 13 players with that amount or more.
-They are led by Nikita Scherbak, (57 pts), Carson Stadnyk (46), Kohl Bauml (42) and Ivan Nikolishin (41); giving them some needed 25-*scoring depth.
-Carter Hart (2.27 GAA, 0.915 Save %) and Austin Lotz (2.45, 0.913 Save %) gives Everett the best Tending duo in the Division.

Inside the Division:
-14-7-1-1 overall record. They have played over half of their games so far this season vs. divisional opponents.

Vs. Portland:
-4-2-1-0 (3 games remaining; 2 at home, 1 in Portland)
-Won 4 of their first 5 match ups, but have dropped 2 straight since including the most lopsided of the games, a 7-1 loss in the Rose City.
-Last time they played was December 6th and next time they play is January 31st.

Vs. Spokane:
-3-2 (3 games remaining; all in Spokane)
-2 of the Tip's only 3 regulation losses through the first 19 games of the season were to the Chiefs/
-All 4 games so far have been within 2 goals.
-Last time they played was January 16th and the next time they play is February 3rd.

Vs. Seattle:
-4-2 (4 games remaining; 2 at home and 2 on the road)
-Would play each other in the first round as it stands now; which would be the 2nd year in a row the I-5 rivals would square off in the post-season.
-Last time they played was January 18th and the next time they meet is February 14th.

Vs. Tri City:
-3-1-0-1 (5 games remaining; 3 at home and 2 in Kennewick)
-All 5 games so far have been within 2 goals and the most goals either team has scored vs the other in regulation is 4.
-Last time they played was December, 28th and the next time they play is February 6th.


2) Portland Winterhawks (47 GP, 25-19-0-3, 53 Pts, 9 back of Everett)
-The pre-season favorite in the Division has struggled with inconsistency, large defensive lapses and the constant disappearance of important play-makers, yet still has a shot at taking their 3rd straight U.S. Division crown.
-Portland has won 4 of their last 5 games, including a sweep of the Prince George Cougars.
-Since returning from the World Juniors, Oliver Bjorkstrand has been on a tear, notching 14 points in 6 games. Also Adin Hill has finally given the Hawks some consistent Goaltending; notching a 2.66 GAA and an incredible 0.929 Save % this season. Portland has plenty of other players who have underwhelmed so far this season and if Hill can stay hot and they can start to get consistent scoring from their 2nd and 3rd lines, they could go on a tear. They won 6 in a row in late November-early December when they were near 100% healthy and present. If one team can put a scare into the Tips, it's probably the defending champs.
-Portland is led by Bjorkstrand (54 Pts), Chase De Leo (51), Nic Petan (38), Miles Koules (35) and Paul Bittner (34). Between the top 5 scores, they have missed a total of 41 games so far this season.

Inside the Division:
-9-9-0-3 overall record. They have played 21 of 38 games within the division.

Vs. Everett:
-3-3-0-1 (3 games remaining, 2 of which are in Everett).
-After dropping 4 of their first 5 vs the Tips, they have won 2 straight; a 12-4 overall score.

Vs. Spokane:
-1-3 (4 games remaining, 2 at home and 2 in Spokane).
-Blew leads in all 3 losses to the Chiefs, a team they dominated for the last 2 seasons.
-Would be a first round match up as it stands now.
-Next play tonight in Portland and they last played on January 9th.

Vs, Seattle:
-2-3-0-2 (5 games remaining, 2 at home and 3 in Seattle).
-Both teams have been missing top players for all 7 games so far,
-Next play tomorrow night in Seattle and they last played on January 4th, a 4-0 Hawks win.

Vs. Tri City:
-3-0 (5 games remaining, 3 at home and 2 on the road).
-Hawks have outscored the Americans 11-5 overall in the 3 games.
-Next play on Sunday and they last played on January 3rd (a 3-0 Hawks win).

3) Spokane Chiefs (44 GP, 23-17-3-1, 50 Pts, 14 back of Everett and 3 of Portland)
-Spokane was doubted by many to begin this season but has scratched and clawed their way back into games; never really ever going away and thus surprising the Division and conference with a solid season so far.
-They are currently on a 3 game losing streak; losing 3 straight to divisional opponents.
-After a 50 pt season last year, Adam Helewka already has 56, showing himself to be an elite player in the league.
-Jason Fram has also been a godsend for the Chiefs, notching 39 points so far, while also providing scoring form the back end.
Garrett Hughson also has been better then expected with a 2.85 GAA and 0.903 Save %.
-Only U.S. Division team that has yet to go on their Eastern Division swing.

Inside the Division:
-13-8-2-1 overall record. They had the best record within the division prior to last week's 3 losses.

Vs. Everett:
-2-2-1 (3 remaining)
-If they don't stop the slide, they could face the Tips in the first round.

Vs. Portland:
-3-1 (4 remaining).
-Kailer Yamamoto and Adam Helewka each have 7 points in 4 games vs. Portland, while Paul Bittner has 6 vs. Spokane. In only 2 games vs the Chiefs, Oliver Bjorkstrand has 5 points.

Vs. Seattle:
-3-3-1-1 (2 games remaining; both at home).
-Entertaining series between the 2 so far as they have already seen each other 8 times (most in the Division).
-Next play each other January 25th and last matched up on 1/13.

Vs. Tri City:
-5-2 (5 games remaining; 3 at home and 2 on the road).
-Yet another team that has done well vs. the Americans.
-The Chiefs dropped the Americans 10-2 on New Year's Eve but lost to them 7-0 last week.
-Next play each other tomorrow night.

4) Seattle Thunderbirds (44 GP, 22-17-2-3, 49 Pts, 1 pt behind Spokane and 3 ahead of T.C. for first Wild Card spot)
-Seattle has faced long stretches without their 2 best players (Shea Theodore and Mathew Barzal) and should be close to 100% healthy soon.
-Lack of goal scoring has contributed to some of the T-bird's struggles. They are led by Ryan Gropp (33 Pts).
-Taran Kozun has held them in a lot of games this season with a 2.36 GAA and a 0.915 Save %.

Inside the Division:
-15-8-1-3 overall record. 13 games remaining in the Division.

Vs. Everett:
-2-2-1-1 (4 remaining).
-Blown out in Everett last weekend 6-0.

Vs. Portland:
-5-2 (5 remaining).
-Will be tougher sledding from here on out vs the Hawks as they should have some of their stars back in the lineup, but so will the T-birds.

Vs. Spokane:
-5-2-0-1 (2 remaining).
-Back to back 4-1 wins over Spokane in recent meetings.
-Next play on Sunday.

Vs. Tri City:
-3-2-0-1 (2 remaining).
-Next play tonight in Kennewick.

Tri City Americans (46 GP, 22-22-0-2, 46 Pts, 17 Pts behind Everett for Division and 6 pts ahead of Vancouver for final playoff spot).
-They were expected to ride the Goaltending of Eric Comrie but between injuries and time away at the World Juniors, he has only played in 24 games, while backup Evan Sarthou has played in 22.
-Another team that has struggled scoring; they are led by Parker Bowles (39 Pts), Brian Williams (36), Beau McCue (35) and Richard Nejezchleb (29 in 24 games since being acquired from Brandon).
-This team looks like a year or two away from making an impact as D-men Parker Wotherspoon and Brandon Carlo, as well as, Forwards Ty Comrie, Vladislav Lukin, Ty Comrie and Taylor Vickerman are showing marked improvement and are 1996 and 97 born players.

Inside the Division:
-7-12-0-2 overall record.
-Have fared the worst in the Division.

Vs. Everett:
-Oddly enough one of the Divisional teams they have fared the best against has been the first place Tips.
-Next play Feb. 7th.

Vs. Portland:
-Only team who the Ams have yet to beat.
-In years past they have had a lot of success in Portland, where there is 3 more games.

Vs. Spokane:
-With a lot (5) of games against Spokane left, they have a good chance of making a run at home ice, but it is not looking likely.

Vs. Seattle:
-Only U.S. team they have a winning record against.
-Sarthou shut out the T-birds on 12/13.

-In a real tight division that should have all 5 representatives in the playoffs, it will be very interesting to see how the last month and a half plays out.

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